Because jazz criticism is one in every of the many issues I do know too little about, Otis Ferguson was solely a reputation to me when The Otis Ferguson Reader got here my approach final fall, and I hope his admirers will settle for the praise I meant once I declare him (for symbolic functions, at the least) as the first rock critic. Remembered principally for his film evaluations, Ferguson additionally wrote extensively about the music of the swing period, and there’s one thing about his angle that strikes a chord. The man was a born democrat: having labored his means by way of school, he refused to tackle airs when the job was completed. Actively hostile to any trace of sham, fad, or dilettantism, he tried to explain complicated aesthetic interactions in order that laymen might perceive them. But he refused to compromise in the different path both. Unlike the run of followers and/or hacks who all the time dominate music journalism, he liked language for its personal sake, written and spoken each, which suggests he was dedicated to taking colloquial dangers in a honed type — he went for contemporaneity and a feisty edge with out worrying about whether or not he’d sound dated or stilted later. He valued music’s soul and inspiration no extra and a minimum of its form and which means.
Like any smart individual, Ferguson knew you couldn’t write about American music with out writing about Afro-American music — he was calling blues “America’s single biggest contribution to the form of music” fairly early in the lifetime of that cliché. But he additionally knew that “people who talk too glibly about racial differences always get left out on a limb, sooner or later,” and added: “When it comes to the best musicians, the matter of race is a tossup as far as I’m concerned.” Ferguson was adamant if not defensive on this level — he as soon as took John Hammond to process for “saying ‘white musician’ the way you’d use the term ‘greaseball’ ” — partly in response towards ’20s Afrophilia, which was typically not simply dilettantism however elitist European. But when it got here to the greatest musicians he obtained unlikely outcomes from his tossup, devoting 13 pages (in the Reader, $10 from December Press, 3093 Dato, Highland Park, Illinois 60035) to Bix Beiderbecke towards Louis Armstrong’s one, 24 pages to Benny Goodman towards Duke Ellington’s six, 4 pages to Red Nichols towards Sidney Bechet’s two bemused mentions.
People who speak glibly about racial variations may get judgmental about these statistics, however I respect Ferguson an excessive amount of for that. Anyway, he did higher than lots of his colleagues, and even the worst of them had alibis. White musicians have been extra accessible, white musicians drew extra readers, white musicians had (to cite Ferguson) “melodic discipline,” and “more definite organization,” white musicians “did more to spread the fame of jazz.” All of that is credible, helpful, and maybe even true; as a naif who regards jazz as an primarily black idiom, I used to be impressed by Ferguson to check the spritz of MCA’s pleasant current Red Nichols reissue, and I’m glad I did. But then I turned to Sidney Bechet’s RCA twofer from the similar interval (“his soprano saxophone can still be heard today”), and let me inform you — Bechet blew Nichols away.
People who speak glibly about historic parallels all the time get disregarded on a limb ultimately, so I hope I don’t push my analogy farther than it needs to go. But I stored interested by Otis Ferguson’s Negro drawback as the ballots for the ninth or 10th annual Pazz & Jop Critics’ Poll rolled in. If Elvis Costello’s victory wasn’t precisely scorching information, his margin was respectable — he obtained a a lot greater vote than the Clash in 1981, and did higher proportionally than a comparable consensus selection, Graham Parker in 1979. But regardless of how huge a bit the winner minimize off, most voters appeared weary of how stale, flat, and unprofitable the pie had turn out to be; the dejected Britcrits at Trouser Press, as an example, declined to call a primary album this yr, putting Imperial Bedroom, which topped their in-house ballot, at a symbolic quantity two. And if I as soon as once more did not share all this dolor, it wasn’t in the hundred-flowers bloom spirit that impressed me to record my 60 prime albums a yr in the past; although I did discover one other 60 gooduns, down-the-middle gross sales and borderline creativity each sagged ominously sufficient to place a crimp in my pure rock and roll optimism. Starting in early November, nevertheless, seven of my favourite 1982 albums, each one a variation on a theme, restored lots of my hearth. And in the event that they weren’t more likely to raise the temper at Trouser Press, a journal white supremacist sufficient to make Rolling Stone appear to be a hotbed of affirmative motion, George Clinton’s Computer Games, Marvin Gaye’s Midnight Love, Prince’s 1999, Grandmaster Flash’s The Message, Chic’s Tongue in Chic, Material’s One Down, and Michael Jackson’s Thriller made it a reasonably rattling good yr in any case.
Except in re poor Tongue in Chic, which received shut out, the critics shared my enthusiasm to a reasonably unprecedented diploma. Prince, Gaye, and Jackson completed 6, eight, and 15, whereas in 1980 Prince, Stevie Wonder, and Jackson completed eight, 9, and 13 — with no Sunny Adé or Ornette Coleman to siphon off tokenism votes. And Adé’s displaying was very spectacular in itself — unknown to American critics a yr in the past the African rhythm king completed fourth, greater than any black artist in the historical past of the ballot besides Wonder (who gained in 1976). And whereas Ornette’s 13th-place end doesn’t sound all that rather more commanding than Dancing in Your Head’s 15th in 1977, 1982’s sampling of 216 respondents, 67 of them from cities aside from New York, Los Angeles, Boston, and San Francisco, ought to have been a lot more durable to crack than 1977’s 68-critic in-group. It wasn’t, and for good purpose: simply as established critics have been transformed and new ones created by punk/new wave in the late ’70s, so now many younger critics younger and previous are steadily studying to listen to music that falls underneath the rubric of funk.
And the albums weren’t even the huge story. Like “new wave,” the time period “funk” exploits a serviceable vagueness; it’ll match all the black data I’ve named for those who stretch it round Sunny Adé a bit. But funk in its purest type was the first explanation for the pop occasion of the yr, perched securely atop the singles record. Never in Pazz & Jop historical past has any report occasioned such blanket ecstasy as Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five’s “The Message.” About 75 per cent of the voters put it of their prime 10s, often at no 1 or 2; the greatest proportion any album has earned was This Year’s Model’s 60 in 1978, and in three earlier years of singles balloting no title has made even a 3rd of the lists. Nor was this New York chauvinism; “The Message” did even higher in the boonies (as I jocularly check with cities off the NY-LA-Boston-Frisco axis) and the ’burbs (my pet identify for LA-Boston-Frisco) than in its hometown, the place it was subjected to a small homosexual boycott (although at the least three homosexual voters ignored the “fag” references and named it anyway) in addition to NY’s all too predictable antitrendie backlash. In some other yr, the 104 votes for Marvin Gaye’s polymorphous vocal-percussive tapestry “Sexual Healing” would have been a definitive pop occasion all by itself. In another yr, the eighth-place end of 1982’s most influential dance document, Afrika Bambaataa & the Soul Sonic Force’s “Planet Rock,” would have tempted me to reward of Kraftwerk and different universalist indiscretions. In 1982, nevertheless, the sinuous synthesized skeleton towards which Melle Mel and firm pitted Duke Bootee’s street-surreal rhymes mixed the better of Gaye’s physique rock and of Bambaataa’s futuristic world-spirit — and it had a message, too.
Nor did the funk cease there. Last yr “rock” by Laurie Anderson, the Rolling Stones, Kim Carnes, and Yoko Ono surrounded Flash’s “Wheels of Steel” in the prime 5; this yr, apart from the rejuvenated Pretenders, all of the 5 white artists in the prime 10 — led by the Clash, who gained inner-city credibility whereas at the similar time proving so center American that greater than half their 18th-place album help got here from the boonies — scored with black dance data of 1 type or one other. In reality, this was a yr through which good black radio proved extra open to good white music than any white radio did to any black music: black supremacist Ron Wynn, who attributed 1982’s “vibrant, exciting music” to “the growing rift in black and white pop tastes” (with that obscure phrase “pop” leaving room for settlement), deplored the method “white junk like Toni Basil” (pop tastes do differ) crowded out such worthies as Jerry Butler. White supremacists, on the different hand, will in all probability view the complete singles record as an enormous liberal miscegenation plot.
If in my mongrelizing depravity I appear to be prophesying interracial rockcrit hegemony, nevertheless, keep in mind Otis Ferguson. Like rescued L.A. bluesman Ted Hawkins (inheritor to this yr’s Longhair-Nevilles traditionalist vote) and former Blood Ulmer drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson (who completed 13 locations forward of his previous boss), Adé and Coleman qualify as critics’ faves, like Aretha Franklin (in her first P&J charting ever), Prince, Gaye, and Jackson are black popsters who “cross over,” and whereas Gaye’s outreach is an easy little matter of genius fairly than of acutely aware stylistic modulation, crossovers do by definition accommodate white journalists together with white everyone elses. I would like, want, and love each pop and esoterica, however I’d be extra inspired if the voters shared my ardour for the in-betweeners — if George Clinton (on whom word-of-mouth began late) had bested Richard Hell and even Lou Reed, additionally crazed old-timers just lately arisen from the slough of despond; or if Grandmaster Flash’s LP (which might have made prime 40 if solely Tom Smucker, supposedly one among my greatest buddies, hadn’t flued out on his franchise) had completed with Mission of Burma’s Vs. or the Dream Syndicate’s Days of Wine and Roses or the Fleshtones’ Roman Gods and even X’s Under the Big Black Sun, additionally groove albums of doubtful verbal acuity. I’d be extra inspired if the black artists in the prime 15 had completed even greater — in December I assumed an Adé or Gaye victory conceivable. And I’d be most inspired of all if I assumed the flowering of funk was dispelling the gloom of white rock critics as irresistibly because it should be.
On one degree the undeniable fact that it doesn’t makes good sense. Because most of the critics are white (although a part of the story is what number of good new ones aren’t), they discover it simpler to determine with white musicians, particularly after 5 years of minor miracles from numerous punks and new wavers. But this isn’t as pure as it might appear: it’s a heritage of the previous “progressive” sensibility and the radio it helped spawn. One purpose I take pleasure in black music so readily is that as a toddler of the ’50s I grew up having fun with it — greater than white music, and rattling proper I used to be conscious of the distinction. Not that I got here by funk spontaneously. Beguiled by progressivism myself — and subsequently educated to get off on stuff that many younger critics can barely hear in any respect (Donald Fagen, say, or Warren Zevon) — I needed to retool my ears (at the urging of colleagues like Joe McEwen, Ed Ward, and particularly Pablo Guzman) to know how the new black music means; I needed to study George Clinton’s and James Brown’s language. After 5 or 6 years, I’m nonetheless working at it, and I think I gained’t succeed to my full satisfaction with out much more assist from the likes of Barry Michael Cooper and Gregory Ironman Tate, who’ve breathed all of it their acutely aware lives. But I can inform you that this language renders a number of progressive requirements not invalid (they nonetheless work for Zevon and Fagen) however irrelevant. If historical past is any information, funk usages will ultimately be taken without any consideration by everybody who listens to widespread music; complaints about meaningless lyrics and indistinguishable rhythms will sometime appear as off the mark as Otis Ferguson’s appeals to “melodic discipline” and “more definite organization.”
Unfortunately, this doesn’t do anyone a lot good proper now, as a result of the pop future has to start with your personal pleasure in your personal time. Unlike fan Tim Sommer, who berates “ethnic patronization” no less than partly as a result of funk is stealing hardcore’s thunder, or hack Blair Jackson, who indicators off with cheery threats of “death to critics who think Grandmaster Flash is ‘important’ ” (any person fly out to San Francisco and mug that biz-sucking hippie!), I feel it’s wholesome for younger critics to force-funk themselves, as some do. Those African rhythms are well-known for his or her je ne sais quoi, in any case, and with Britishers like the Clash and Gang of Four and ABC (my conscience interjects: and the Human League and Joe Jackson?) outracing their attenuated U.S. art-funk rivals (I don’t imply you, Devo and Talking Heads) to black radio, many cool people have determined that maybe it’s time to look past the newest sensible storage band. In New York that is unavoidable anyway — funk is actually in the air of one among the few American cities with a genuinely built-in road life. But the ageing new wavers who’re the principal funk converts nonetheless endure from Ferguson’s Syndrome — their new pleasure doesn’t present that important existential satisfaction, as a result of the language continues to be a overseas one.
I’m wondering how Ferguson, who died in World War II, would have adjusted to bebop. Would he have continued to end up tersely emotional appreciations of the surviving swing giants, or would he have come to phrases with these forbidding rhythmic modifications the approach Budd Johnson and Coleman Hawkins and Woody Herman did? The query issues as a result of funk might be altering rock and roll as basically as bebop modified jazz. I’m conscious that I made an identical declare for the punk forcebeat simply 4 years in the past, however one doesn’t cancel out the different. On the opposite, funk is stage two, offering the plain common base that punk (and bebop) by no means achieved on this nation — although it did in Great Britain, in all probability one cause the prime British postpunk funkers make higher pop than their American counterparts, wholehearted however by no means simple-minded.
What rock and roll has all the time held out — greater than any theme and even sound — is the pop edge, the promise that there’s a future on the market for exceptional atypical individuals to make. Sure it’s potential to say one thing new from a well-explored place — in a way, not solely Donald Fagen and Warren Zevon however George Clinton himself did simply that in 1982. But as a result of pop seizes the second so decisively, it may be used to fixate on the previous in addition to journey into the future — it may possibly serve nostalgia in addition to progress. In my view, that’s simply what Tom Petty (57th) and Graham Parker (50th) and Joni Mitchell (39th) and perhaps even Fleetwood Mac (36th) are as much as today. And it’s my dedication to the future that makes my favourite albums of 1982 shake out kind of as follows.
1. Ornette Coleman: Of Human Feelings (Antilles) 16; 2. King Sunny Adé and His African Beats: Juju Music (Mango) 16; Three. Richard & Linda Thompson: Shoot Out the Lights (Hannibal) 14; four. George Clinton: Computer Games (Capitol) 13; 5. Flipper: Album/Generic Flipper (Subterranean) 9; 6. The English Beat: Special Beat Service (I.R.S.) eight; 7. Marvin Gaye: Midnight Love (Columbia) 7; eight. Kid Creole and the Coconuts: Wise Guy (Sire/ZE) 6; 9. Donald Fagen: The Nightfly (Warner Bros.) 6; 10. Lou Reed: The Blue Mask (RCA Victor) 5
11. Ian Dury & the Blockheads: Juke Box Dury (Stiff) 12. Marshall Crenshaw (Warner Bros.) 13. James Blood Ulmer: Black Rock (Columbia) 14. Professor Longhair: The Last Mardi Gras (Atlantic Deluxe) 15. Clint Eastwood & General Saint: Two Bad DJ (Greensleeves) 16. Warren Zevon: The Envoy (Asylum) 17. Prince: 1999 (Warner Bros.) 18. ABC: The Lexicon of Love (Mercury) 19. Ray Parker Jr.: The Other Woman (Arista) 20. Itals: Brutal Out Deh (Nighthawk)
21. Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five: The Message (Sugarhill) 22. Bruce Springsteen: Nebraska (Columbia) 23. James Booker: New Orleans Piano Wizard: Live! (Rounder) 24. Gang of Four: Songs of the Free (Warner Bros.) 25. B-52’s: Mesopotamia (Warner Bros.) 26. Chic: Tongue in Chic (Atlantic) 27. Sweet Pea Atkinson: Don’t Walk Away (Island/ZE) 28. Bonnie Hayes and the Wild Combo: Good Clean Fun (Slash) 29. Material: One Down (Elektra) 30. Michael Jackson: Thriller (Epic)
31. The Roches: Keep On Doing (Warner Bros.) 32. Van Morrison: Beautiful Vision (Warner Bros.) 33. Orchestra Makassy: Agwaya (Virgin import) 34. Rank and File: Sundown (Slash) 35. Ronald Shannon Jackson and the Decoding Society: Mandance (Antilles) 36. Tom Robinson: North by Northwest (I.R.S.) 37. CH3: Fear of Life (Posh Boy) 38. David Johansen: Live It Up (Blue Sky) 39. Sound d’Afrique II (Mango) 40. Trouble Funk: Drop the Bomb (Sugarhill)
41. Devo: Oh, No! It’s Devo (Warner Bros.) 42. X: Under the Big Black Sun (Elektra) 43. Talking Heads: The Name of This Band Is Talking Heads (Sire) 44. Bonnie Raitt: Green Light (Warner Bros.) 45. A Flock of Seagulls (Arista) 46. Soweto (Rough Trade import) 47. Ferron: Testimony (Philo) 48. Descendents: Milo Goes to College (New Alliance) 29. Psychedelic Furs: Forever Now (Columbia) 50. Lee “Scratch” Perry and the Majestics: Mystic Miracle Star (Heartbeat)
51. Richard Hell and the Voidoids: Destiny Street (Red Star) 52. Jive Five Featuring Eugene Pitt: Here We Are! (Ambient Sound) 53. Ted Hawkins: Watch Your Step (Rounder) 54. Laurie Anderson: Big Science (Warner Bros.) 55. Speed Boys: That’s What I Like (I Like Mike) 56. Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band: Ice Cream for Crow (Virgin/Epic) 57. Alberta Hunter: The Glory of Alberta Hunter (Columbia) 58. “D” Train (Prelude) 59. Mighty Diamonds: Indestructible (Alligator) 60. Joe “King” Carrasco & the Crowns: Synapse Gap (Mundo Total) (MCA)
I ought to say that this yr’s prime 60 is much less last than 1981’s was. Not solely are Roxy Music, Mission of Burma, two Bunny Wailer imports, and different stragglers awaiting judgment, however this seems to have been a banner yr for best-ofs. I like the Ray Parker Jr. and the Billy Stewart much more than the Squeeze and the Stevie Wonder (which ran 1-Three round Chuck Berry’s The Great Twenty-Eight in an off-the-cuff compilation poll we solicited), and would identify John Lennon and the Bellamy Brothers and Ambient Sound’s Everything Old Is New and maybe Shalamar and even (can it’s?) Abba (behind Okeh Western Swing and the Coasters and tied with the reissued Africa Dances in the balloting). I also needs to announce that with an additional week to assume I’d change Pazz & Jop factors and locations between George Clinton and Sunny Adé; sadly, my poll was due February 1 like everyone else’s. About singles I’ll say solely that my agency criterion — actual pleasure imported by the document heard as a single — befuddled me into omitting Flipper’s “Sex Bomb,” which I ended enjoying once I acquired Flipper’s album. Criteria be damned, I’d now rank it quantity four anyway — a “Louie Louie” for our time:
1. Fearless Four: “Rockin’ It” (Enjoy) 2. Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five: “The Message” (Sugarhill) Three. Marvin Gaye: “Sexual Healing” (Columbia) four. New Order: “Temptation” (Factory import) 5. Stacy Lattisaw: “Attack of the Name Game” (Cotillion) 6. Musical Youth: “Pass the Dutchie” (MCA) 7. Pretenders: “My City Was Gone” (Sire) eight. Weather Girls: “It’s Raining Men” (Columbia) 9. Peech Boys: “Don’t Make Me Wait” (West End) 10. Flipper: “Get Away”/”The Old Lady Who Swallowed the Fly!” (Subterranean)
11. P-Funk All-Stars: “Hydraulic Pump” (Hump) 12. Yazoo: “Situation” (Sire) 13. Captain Sensible: “Wot” (A&M import) 14. ABC: “The Look of Love” (Mercury) 15. Anti-Nowhere League: “So What” (WXYZ import) 16. Gang of Four: “I Love a Man in Uniform” (Warner Bros.) 17. Stripsearch: “Hey Kid”/Emily XYZ: “Who Shot Sadat?” (Vinyl Repellent) 18. Cheap Trick: “If You Want My Love” (Epic) 19. Prince: “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore?” (Warner Bros.) 20. Bonnie Hayes and the Wild Combo: “Shelley’s Boyfriend” (Slash)
21. Joe Piscopo: “I Love Rock n’ Roll (Medley)” (Columbia) 22. A Flock of Seagulls: “I Ran” (Jive) 23. Gap Band: “You Dropped a Bomb on Me” (Total Experience) 24. Treacherous Three: “Yes We Can-Can” (Sugarhill) 25. Afrika Bambaataa & the Soul Sonic Force: “Planet Rock” (Tommy Boy) 26. Dangerous Birds: “Smile on Your Face”/”Alpha Romeo” (Propeller) 27. Eddy Grant: “California Style” (Ice import) 28. Althia & the Donazz: “Virgin Style” (Circle import) 29. Anne Waldman: “Uh-Oh Plutonium!” (Hyacinth Girls) 30. Gary U.S. Bonds: “Out of Work” (EMI America)
I’ve had second ideas about EPs, too. After scoffing all yr I discovered myself smitten with a great deal of ’em — haven’t even talked about my 1-2 in print until now. The EP is a complicated class, conceived by Poobah Tom Carson and me as a disc various to the now discontinued native band competitors. And as soon as once more the winner wasn’t even an area band, however slightly a marginal mainstreamer who’s already launched 5 LPs and who with the assist of his Lord Jesus Christ got here up with what can solely be referred to as the most impressed California-rock of the yr, correctly promoted by Warners in a finances format. And if T-Bone Burnett solely transformed me after I returned Trap Door to the lively pile in 1983, nicely, the similar goes for R.E.M., his drug-crazed counterparts from the Athens of the South:
1. Angry Samoans: Back from Samoa (Bad Trip) 2. The Waitresses: I Could Rule the World If I Could Only Get the Parts (Polydor) Three. R.E.M.: Chronic Town (I.R.S.) four. Oh OK: Wow Mini Album (DB) 5. Minor Threat: In My Eyes (Dischord) 6. T-Bone Burnett: Trap Door (Warner Bros.) 7. Pop-O-Pies: The White EP (415) eight. Replacements: The Replacements Stink! (Twin/Tone) 9. Mofungo: “El Salvador”/”Just the Way”/”Gimme a Sarsaparilla” (Rough Trade import) 10. Steve Almaas: Beat Rodeo (Coyote)
Return now if you’ll to my album listing and we’ll ponder the future some extra. First, rely black LPs, not such a clear-cut activity on this mongrel-eat-mongrel world. Disqualifying the English Beat and Material, I get 27, solely two greater than I named final yr, however with a hanging change in racial make-up on the leading edge: 5 (versus two) of my prime 10 are black, as are 16 (versus eight) of my prime 30. Then attempt one other parameter relevant to our theme: age. Three of the artists in my prime 10 are over 40, identical to me, and 4 extra (giving Richard Thompson a break) over 35. Youth chauvinists ought to jeer at my previous fartdom now, whereas they nonetheless can — it might certainly be that my continual indifference to Elvis the C displays my advancing years and the complacent rationalism consequent thereupon. It so occurs, nevertheless, that Marvin Gaye (b. 1939) additionally made the critics’ prime 10, and as we proceed down the two lists one thing unusual occurs. Only 4 extra over-40s, together with two superannuated (to not point out lifeless) New Orleans pianists whom I classify as rock and rollers simply to be ornery, seem in my prime 40; on the critics’ listing you’ll discover seven extra. And the place I listing seven over-35s in all, the critics provide you with a complete of 9. Old farts abound.
Fascinating figures, and I imply to have them each methods. On the one hand, they make hash of the historic canard that rock and roll is strictly for the younger — if not literal youngsters then at the very least untrammeled striplings. The purpose outmoded “progressive” requirements can rejuvenate pushing-40s like Richard Thompson and Lou Reed — who share 1982 comeback honors with Bryan Ferry (b. 1945) and George Clinton (b. 1940), and should they and others like them prosper for many years to return — in addition to suiting such 35-niks as Donald Fagen and Warren Zevon is that they (artists and values each) nonetheless truly do (or anyway, can) progress. Richard and Linda’s ultimate album actually is their loudest and clearest. Lou’s most contented and apparently typical album actually is (with the help of Robert Quine and black bassist Fernando Saunders) his supplest. And Avalon, which completed greater than any Roxy Music album since 1975’s Country Life, combines the funk really feel Ferry launched on Manifesto in 1979 with the English electrosheen of his personal heirs’ synth-pop for the most unabashedly romantic music this ironic romantic has ever made.
But as a lot as I like lots of the different oldster albums the critics chosen — Morrison’s and McCartney’s and Fleetwood Mac’s and (to be good) Mitchell’s — they do carry a moderately nostalgic collective weight; they recapitulate the previous and do what they will to disregard the future. Such encumbrances don’t even contact Adé and Gaye and Coleman and Shannon Jackson, whose imply age have to be 43 or 44, as a result of these males are working a practice — considerably, a particularly musical relatively than cultural custom — that’s simply begun to flower. And if I’m doubly a fan of George Clinton, it’s not as a result of he’s been in the vanguard of that custom for therefore lengthy that he might coast for 5 years and nonetheless be on the one. It’s as a result of he’s additionally a grasp of such supposedly Caucasian specialties as stance and persona and pop mind-fuck — and since the humility and vulnerability of his comeback album, an album instantly impressed by New York dance radio normally and his heirs Flash and Bambaataa particularly, are sharper, deeper, funnier, hotter, and extra irreverent than Lou Reed’s or Warren Zevon’s.
I’m conscious that Imperial Bedroom additionally has its formally progressive rep, however when the greatest line any of my usually loquacious correspondents can feed me on the album of the yr is Roy Trakin’s “tongue-twisting puns for the post-Porter generation,” issues are clearly determined. I do know, it’s all about emotional fascism; I do know, it’s even received a lyric sheet. Try studying the rattling factor — the phrases are virtually as onerous to comply with on paper as in the air. I say it’s Elvis at his fussiest and I say the hell with it. In reality, like the headline-scrounging previous commie fart I’m, I a lot favor (and was rooting for) the album that handicapped as its chief rival: Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska. A dangerous, eloquent, and profitable pop mind-fuck, Nebraska minimize Reagan to bits with a dignity that screamed no joke and broke AOR with no hook or a lure set. Only drawback was, it was — and I exploit this time period advisedly — boring. It was boring even when each certainly one of its 800,000 house owners performed it obsessively for months on finish, which I doubt. It was so monochromatic that even because it screamed no joke it whispered no exit — and perhaps no future. It might have been a pop mind-fuck, nevertheless it wasn’t fairly a pop occasion, as a result of the very phrases of the mind-fuck impelled Springsteen to negate the rock and roll hope he’s all the time traded in. Next time I hope he places all of it collectively.
But in the meantime we should take our quest for the future to the solely place any sane rockcrit fan would anticipate it to finish — ye olde new wave. As per custom, quite a few debut albums grace our record, and as per neo-orthodoxy, fairly a couple of of them aren’t from England, new wave’s business middle: New York’s Marshall Crenshaw and Fleshtones (and Laurie Anderson?), San Francisco’s Flipper, Austin’s Rank and File, L.A.’s Dream Syndicate, Boston’s Mission of Burma, and (on the EP chart) Athens’s R.E.M. I like all of those artists, some an incredible deal. I discover Marshall Crenshaw’s pop contact surer and extra sleek than that of such top-10 debut-LP predecessors as the Go-Go’s (10th in 1981), the Pretenders (fourth in 1980), the Cars (ninth in 1978), and perhaps even the B-52’s (seventh in 1979), and I hope he will get one other document into the ballot sometime, one thing none of the aforementioned have but managed. I’m loopy about Flipper and on Rank and File’s aspect, and I hope that over the subsequent yr they achieve extra in musicianship than they’re sure to lose in conceptual panache. But I sense in each considered one of the others an insidious postgarage formalism through which hooks and a sure tough emotionality, even sloppiness, are pursued as ends and signify solely themselves. That’s why I name them groove bands — they’re extra interested by a sound than in what a sound can say. Granted, they do share an aesthetic venture — they need to jolt the white rock and roll of the pre-arena period into self-conscious musciality. That’s why I like them. But it’s not precisely what I imply by a dedication to the future.
I can hear my extra apolitical white readers snorting even now at the Dean’s newest integration tract. But this isn’t an ethical plea — it’s a prediction, not nearly critics however about the form of the popworld. Sure I’ve been an advocate of black pop roughly ceaselessly; I dreaded Ferguson’s Syndrome earlier than I ever heard of the man, and I’ve all the time fought it (in myself in addition to others) on the common historic precept that, in the finish, black music will out. But that by no means meant that I believed rock was primarily (versus initially) a black idiom, and it by no means turned me off good new white rock and roll — it simply ready me to listen to nice new black albums (and singles, and extra singles) as they arrived. In 1982 they arrived in profusion, as did an unprecedented array of profitable white imitations and modulations, and whereas I wouldn’t anticipate a exact repeat in 1983 — Gaye and Michael Jackson will little question be silent, reggae is unlikely to be held to a novelty single — I do sense one thing seismic occurring. In 1978 the Pazz & Jop Critics’ Poll introduced a “triumph of the new wave” that appeared sure to crash towards an immovable, monolithically worthwhile document biz; in 1982 the biz was in a panic and new wave seemed like certainly one of its solely hopes. In 1982 the Pazz & Jop Critics’ Poll suggests (considerably extra tentatively) a reintegration of American common music in the tooth of the most racist pop market since the early ’50s, and I’m betting that by 1986 some type of main business lodging could have been achieved. If Sunny Adé can’t be king of MTV, perhaps Prince could be prince.
What stays for critics black and white isn’t to reward each half-assed funk crossover black or white. I imply, Men at Work completed a really modest 66th and the Stray Cats acquired three mentions. But the white critics are going to have to surrender lots of their prejudices — towards populism and stylish and conspicuous consumption, towards homiletics and sexual posturing, and maybe (though in fact this doesn’t imply you) towards black individuals themselves. Even more durable, they need to discover ways to hear how lead basslines and quintuple rhythms and cartoon chants and harmolodic abrasions and get together rhetoric could make which means and reshape time. And hardest of all, they need to really feel the methods by which funk’s pleasures actually are their very own — as human beings, as Americans, as rock and rollers. Meanwhile, the black critics, who will virtually definitely multiply, have loads of explaining to do. They’d higher insist that the music they love actually does make which means, and get hip to how white music means as nicely — maybe even get an inkling that rhythms pure and unnatural aren’t the solely method to a greater life. In brief, rock critics are going to should cease settling for fandom and/or hackdom and switch into critics for actual. And perhaps those that didn’t discount for something fairly so heavy ought to get off the bus proper now.
Oh lordy — it might be the finish of us all.
RAJ BAHADUR: Devo: Oh, No! It’s Devo (Warner Bros.) 19; Joe Jackson: Night and Day (A&M) 18; Paul McCartney: Tug of War (CBS) 13; Marshall Crenshaw: Marshall Crenshaw (Columbia) 12; The Jam: Dig the New Breed (Polydor) 11; The Who: It’s Hard (Warner Bros.) 7; The Jam: The Gift (Polydor) 5; The Chieftains: Cotton-Eyed Joe (Island) 5; Shoes: Boomerang (Elektra) 5; Roxy Music: Avalon (Warner Bros.) 5.
DEBRA RAE COHEN: New Order: 1981-1982 (Factory); Gang of Four: Another Day Another Dollar (Warner Bros.); Hi Sheriffs of Blue: Hi Sheriffs of Blue (Jimboco); R.E.M.: Chronic Town (I.R.S.); Konk: Konk Party (99).
CAROL COOPER: Explainer: “Lorraine” (Sunburst); Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five: “The Message” (Sugarhill); Kurtis Blow: “Tough” (Mercury); Imagination: “Just an Illusion” (MCA); Marvin Gaye: “Sexual Healing” (CBS); Vanity 6: “Nasty Girls” (Warner Bros.); Kid Creole and the Coconuts: “No Fish Today” b/w “Annie I’m Not Your Daddy” (Sire/ZE); Sharon Redd: “Beat the Street” (Prelude); Isley Brothers: “The Real Deal” (T-Neck); Barry White: “Change” (Unlimited Gold).
BLAIR JACKSON: I don’t take heed to singles — I feel the artform sucks.
GREIL MARCUS: The English Beat: Special Beat Service (I.R.S.) 20; Bruce Springsteen: Nebraska (CBS) 20; The Mekons: The Mekons Story (CNT import) 20; Bunny Wailer: Tribute (Solomonic import) 10; Jive Five Featuring Eugene Pitt: Here We Are! (Ambient Sound) 5; Au Pairs: Sense and Sensuality (Kamera import) 5; Flipper: Album: Generic Flipper (Subterranean) 5; Jeff Todd Titon/Fellowship Independent Baptist Church of Stanley, Virginia: Powerhouse for God (University of North Carolina Press Records) 5; Warren Zevon: The Envoy (Asylum) 5; Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band: Ice Cream for Crow (Epic) 5.
DAVE MARSH: Bruce Springsteen: Nebraska (CBS) 16; Michael Jackson: Thriller (Epic) 15; Richard and Linda Thompson: Shoot Out the Lights (Hannibal) 15; Steve Winwood: Talking Back to the Night (Island) 12; David Lasley: Missin’ 20 Grand (EMI America) 7; Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul: Men Without Women (EMI America) 6; the English Beat: Special Beat Service (I.R.S.) 5; Bettye Lavette: Tell Me a Lie (Motown) 5; Richard “Dimples” Fields: Mr. Look So Good (Boardwalk) 5.
JOHN MORTHLAND: Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five: The Message (Sugarhill) 15; Lou Reed: The Blue Mask (RCA) 14; Flipper: Album: Generic Flipper (Subterranean) 13; Trouble Funk: Straight Up Funk Go in Style (JAMTU) 13; Richard and Linda Thompson: Shoot Out the Lights (Hannibal) 11; King Sunny Adé and His African Beats: Juju Music (Mango) 9; Laurie Anderson: Big Science (Warner Bros.) eight; Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band: Ice Cream for Crow (Epic) 7; Ronald Shannon Jackson and the Decoding Society: Mandance (Antilles) 5; “Live” Convention “81” Bee-Bop’s #1 Cut Creators (Disco-O-Wax) 5.
KIT RACHLIS: King Sunny Adé and His African Beats: Juju Music (Mango) 15; The English Beat: Special Beat Service (I.R.S.) 30; Marvin Gaye: Midnight Love (CBS) 5; Fleetwood Mac: Mirage (Warner Bros.) 5; Ted Hawkins: Watch Your Step (Rounder) 5; David Lasley: Missin’ 20 Grand (EMI America) 5; Prince: 1999 (Warner Bros.) 5; Bruce Springsteen: Nebraska (CBS) 20; Richard and Linda Thompson: Shoot Out the Lights (Hannibal) 5; Robert Wyatt: Nothing Can Stop Us (Rough Trade) 5.
GREGORY IRONMAN TATE: Michael Jackson: Thriller (Epic) 10; Prince: 1999 (Warner Bros.) 10; The Time: What Time Is It? (Warner Bros.) 10; Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five: The Message (Sugarhill) 10; James Blood Ulmer: Blackrock (Columbia) 10; Trouble Funk: Drop the Bomb (Sugarhill) 10; Bad Brains: Bad Brains (ROIR cassette) 10; David Byrne: The Catherine Wheel (Sire cassette) 10; Kid Creole and the Coconuts: Wise Guy (Sire/ZE) 10; Aswad: New Chapter in Dub (Mango) 10.
RON WYNN: Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five: “The Message” (Sugarhill); The Gap Band: “You Dropped a Bomb on Me” (Total Experience); Aretha Franklin: “Jump to It” (Arista); Zapp: “Dance Floor” (Warner Bros.); Afrika Bambaataa and the Soul Sonic Force: “Planet Rock” (Tommy-Boy); Weather Girls: “It’s Raining Men” (Columbia); Gary U.S. Bonds: “Out of Work” (EMI America); Junior: “Mama Used To Say” (Mercury); Stevie Wonder: “Do I Do” (Tamla).
LESTER BANGS: 1. Robert Quine Orchestra: I Heard Her Call My Name Symphony (Columbia) 2. DNA Live at Madison Square Garden (Prestige) Three. Richard Hell Sings the R. Dean Taylor Songbook (Tamla) four. Emerson, Lake & Palmer: Heard Ya Missed Us, Well We’re Back (Factory) 5. The Clash: Rappin’ with Bert ’n’ Big Bird (Guest Artist: Oscar the Grouch) (Sesame) 6. Ramones: 14,000,000 Records (Epic) 7. Sue Saad and the Next with Robert Fripp: Jiggle Themes from Prime Time (Verve) eight. Lichtensteiner Polka Band: Hamtramck Oi Gassers (WEA) 9. Brian Eno: 24 New Songs with Brides & Everything (Egregious 2-album set) 10. Miles Davis: Rated X (Alternate Take) (Columbia).
Top 10 Albums of 1982
1. Elvis Costello and the Attractions: Imperial Bedroom (Columbia)
2. Richard & Linda Thompson: Shoot Out the Lights (Hannibal)
Three. Bruce Springsteen: Nebraska (Columbia)
four. King Sunny Adé and His African Beats: Juju Music (Mango)
5. Lou Reed: The Blue Mask (RCA Victor)
6. Prince: 1999 (Warner Bros.)
7. The English Beat: Special Beat Service (I.R.S.)
eight. Marvin Gaye: Midnight Love (Columbia)
9. Marshall Crenshaw: Marshall Crenshaw (Warner Bros.)
10. X: Under the Big Black Sun (Elektra)
Top 10 Singles of 1982
1. Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five: “The Message” (Sugarhill)
2. Marvin Gaye: “Sexual Healing” (Columbia)
Three. The Clash: “Rock the Casbah” (Epic)
four. Prince: “1999”/”How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore?” (Warner Bros.)
5. Soft Cell: “Tainted Love”/”Where Did Our Love Go?” (Sire)
6. Musical Youth: “Pass the Dutchie” (MCA)
7. Pretenders: “Back On the Chain Gang”/”My City Was Gone” (Sire)
eight. Afrika Bambaataa & the Soul Sonic Force: “Planet Rock” (Tommy Boy)
9. (Tie) ABC: “The Look of Love” (Mercury)
Aretha Franklin: “Jump to It” (Arista)
The Human League: “Don’t You Want Me” (A&M)
— From the February 22, 1983, situation
Pazz & Jop essays and outcomes may also be discovered on Robert Christgau’s website. His most up-to-date e-book, Is It Still Good to Ya? Fifty Years of Rock Criticism, 1967–2017, was revealed final yr.
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